Students and alumni at Santa Clara University are protesting an upcoming speech by syndicated columnist George Will. After Will "trivialized" campus sexual assault victims in a 2014 column, he has faced widespread opposition at schools that have hosted him. Last year, Will was uninvited from a speech at Scripps College and protested by hundreds of students at two other schools.
Will first came under fire after his June 2014 column dismissed "the supposed campus epidemic of rape, aka 'sexual assault,'" and argued that efforts to combat campus sexual assault have made "victimhood a coveted status that confers privileges."
A petition at Change.org states that the signatories are "extremely disappointed" with Will's inclusion in Santa Clara's President's Speaker Series on October 8. "We find Will's flatly dismissive statements about sexual assault, climate change, and the Pope not only disrespectful," the petition states, "but contrary to the very spirit of a speaker series dedicated to 'engaging people and ideas that shape our world'" (emphasis added):
While we believe that hosting speakers with a wide range of political viewpoints is vital to the intellectual life of the university, publications by Will demonstrate that he is not interested in the kinds of presentation and discussion that make this series a successful contribution to the mission of the university.
Will has repeatedly issued statements that both trivialize the problem of campus sexual assaults and invalidate the experiences and feelings of sexual assault survivors. Moreover, his recent claim that national and local efforts to combat campus rape have made "victimhood a coveted status that confers privileges" is not merely misguided, but deeply misogynistic and ignorant.
The invitation of Will, at considerable financial cost to the university, sends a profoundly contradictory message to our campus community and particularly our students. At this year's university convocation, President Engh talked about the need for students, faculty, staff -- and the institution as a whole -- to respond with more courage and concern to the problem of violence against women, particularly on college campuses across the country.
Featuring George Will in the President's Speaker Series also undercuts the dedication of many universities (including SCU) to promoting sustainability, an effort Will derides as a silly "progressive gesture." Moreover, leading climatologist Michael Mann notes, "George Will is known for grossly misstating the science of climate change." Ironically, in a recent opinion piece titled "Pope Francis's fact free flamboyance," Will described Pope Francis as embracing ideas "impeccably fashionable, demonstrably false and deeply reactionary," with the "intellectual tone of fortune cookies."
Last October, Will was uninvited from a speaking engagement at Scripps College, after the school's president said Will had "trivialized" sexual assault cases, including one "that reflects similar experiences reported by Scripps students." Later in the year, hundreds showed up to protest a speech Will gave at Miami University in Ohio, while over a thousand students signed a letter criticizing the speech. Some students at Michigan State University also turned their backs on Will during his recent commencement speech. Other students and faculty at MSU even held a separate commencement ceremony, and Michigan Senator (and MSU alumna) Debbie Stabenow condemned the decision to host Will.
Image of Miami University protest courtesy of the Facebook page of the school's Women's, Gender, and Sexuality Studies program.
El Papa Francisco está haciendo su primera visita a Estados Unidos esta semana. Antes de su visita, figuras de los medios conservadores han atacado sus esfuerzos para combatir el cambio climático y la desigualdad, calificándolo de "marxista" que es un "peligro para el mundo".
U.S. Catholic contributor Stephen Schneck denounced a recent Washington Post column by George Will, which attacked Pope Francis' move to act on climate change, as "shocking" and "shameful."
On September 18, Will wrote in The Post that Pope Francis' views on climate change and capitalism are "demonstrably false and deeply reactionary," and "woolly sentiments that have the intellectual tone of fortune cookies."
In response, Schneck -- director of the Institute for Policy Research and Catholic Studies at The Catholic University of America -- stated in a September 21 blog post for U.S. Catholic that Will's remarks were "profoundly appalling." Schneck wrote that "anti-Catholic bigotry has crept from online comment sections to rear its ugliness prominently in cable TV commentary and newspaper op-eds," and that "[a]ll Catholics should be disturbed" by Will's op-ed for its "ad hominem, sarcastic, and demeaning ridicule of His Holiness, Pope Francis."
Schneck also expressed surprise that Will's attack would be published in The Washington Post, "one of America's most respected newspapers."
From the U.S. Catholic post:
Over the past summer, ahead of Pope Francis' visit to the United States this week, discriminatory, anti-Catholic bigotry has crept from online comment sections to rear its ugliness prominently in cable TV commentary and newspaper op-eds.
It's Will's treatment of things Catholic that is more concerning. What is profoundly appalling is the vitriolic temper of Will's remarks about the pope. His tone and language are shocking, coming as they do not from a scurrilous, fly-by-night website but from the op-ed page of one of America's most respected newspapers. All Catholics should be disturbed. Most shameful is the columnist's ad hominem, sarcastic, and demeaning ridicule of His Holiness, Pope Francis.
The moral teachings that His Holiness reaffirmed in this summer's encyclical, Laudato Si' -- teachings preached as well by Popes Benedict XVI and John Paul II -- have been at the heart of Catholic analysis of our responsibilities in modern life since Pope Leo XIII's encyclical Rerum Novarum in 1891. Crudely, Will smears these traditional teachings as "Francis's fact-free flamboyance." Lampooning Pope Francis for "trailing clouds of sanctimony," Will dismisses papal teachings as "demonstrably false and deeply reactionary" and as "woolly sentiments that have the intellectual tone of fortune cookies." He parades around with the hoary banner of Galileo and against Catholic "medieval stasis." He demands that "Americans cannot simultaneously honor" Pope Francis "and celebrate their nation's premises."
The historian Arthur Schlesinger once called anti-Catholicism "the deepest bias in the history of the American people." I've never actually agreed with that argument. Racism, anti-Semitism, and a peculiar American misogyny are equally deep and certainly more virulent. But, on the left and on the right, anti-Catholicism has always had a kind of pass in otherwise polite corners of American public life where other overt discriminatory language is disparaged.
You are certainly free to disagree with Pope Francis, Mr. Will. You are certainly free to disagree with Catholic teachings and to contest them in any forum. But surely you would agree that the American public square should long ago have forsworn the ridicule of others' religious teachings and the person of their religious leaders.
Pope Francis is making his first visit to the United States this week. Prior to his visit, conservative media figures have attacked him over his efforts to combat climate change and inequality, labeling him a "Marxist" who is a "danger to the world."
Conservative Washington Post columnist George Will attacked Pope Francis in his most-recent column, writing that the pope's call to action on climate change and his criticisms of capitalism are "demonstrably false and deeply reactionary."
Right-wing media have a long history of criticizing Pope Francis for espousing so-called "liberal" values. Fox's Andrew Napolitano recently called the pope a "Marxist" for blaming the unfolding European refugee crisis on global poverty. In July, Rush Limbaugh referred to Pope Francis as "a clown" when the pope criticized the dangers of what he called "unfettered capitalism." Fox News has also aggressively attacked the pope for addressing climate change, suggesting that the pope was aligning himself with "extremists who favor widespread population control and wealth redistribution." During a June 18 appearance on Fox's Special Report, George Will claimed that the pope's liberal worldview is the result of his relationship with a Latin American, "anti-capitalist" strand of Catholicism.
In a September 18 op-ed for The Washington Post, Will attacked what he called Pope Francis' "fact-free flamboyance," falsely alleging that the pope's embrace of environmental science and dedication to alleviating global poverty reduced the church's relevance to modern society and would "devastate the poor on whose behalf he purports to speak":
Pope Francis embodies sanctity but comes trailing clouds of sanctimony. With a convert's indiscriminate zeal, he embraces ideas impeccably fashionable, demonstrably false and deeply reactionary. They would devastate the poor on whose behalf he purports to speak -- if his policy prescriptions were not as implausible as his social diagnoses are shrill.
Supporters of Francis have bought newspaper and broadcast advertisements to disseminate some of his woolly sentiments that have the intellectual tone of fortune cookies. One example: "People occasionally forgive, but nature never does." The Vatican's majesty does not disguise the vacuity of this. Is Francis intimating that environmental damage is irreversible? He neglects what technology has accomplished regarding London's air (see Page 1 of Dickens's "Bleak House") and other matters.
And the Earth is becoming "an immense pile of filth"? Hyperbole is a predictable precursor of yet another U.N. Climate Change Conference -- the 21st since 1995. Fortunately, rhetorical exhibitionism increases as its effectiveness diminishes. In his June encyclical and elsewhere, Francis lectures about our responsibilities, but neglects the duty to be as intelligent as one can be.This man who says "the Church does not presume to settle scientific questions" proceeds as though everything about which he declaims is settled, from imperiled plankton to air conditioning being among humanity's "harmful habits." The church that thought it was settled science that Galileo was heretical should be attentive to all evidence.
Francis deplores "compulsive consumerism," a sin to which the 1.3 billion persons without even electricity can only aspire. He leaves the Vatican to jet around praising subsistence farming, a romance best enjoyed from 30,000 feet above the realities that such farmers yearn to escape.
Secular people with anti-Catholic agendas drain his prestige, a dwindling asset, into promotion of policies inimical to the most vulnerable people and unrelated to what once was the papacy's very different salvific mission.
He stands against modernity, rationality, science and, ultimately, the spontaneous creativity of open societies in which people and their desires are not problems but precious resources. Americans cannot simultaneously honor him and celebrate their nation's premises.
From the August 30 edition of Fox Broadcasting Co.'s Fox News Sunday:
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From the August 9 edition of Fox Broadcasting Co.'s Fox News Sunday:
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From the August 6 edition of Fox News' Special Report with Bret Baier:
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The Washington Post's George Will likened legal abortion to "barbarism" and "a limitless right to kill, and distribute fragments of, babies."
Will cited the debunked notion that Planned Parenthood profits from the sale of fetal tissue -- a smear manufactured from a conservative group's recent series of deceptively edited videos -- to accuse the women's health organization of running "federally subsidized meat markets" in a July 31 column. The Fox News contributor claimed that those who support women's ability to make their own reproductive choices see fetuses as lacking "a moral standing superior to a tumor or a hamburger in the mother's stomach." He went on:
The nonnegotiable tenet in today's Democratic Party catechism is not opposition to the Keystone XL pipeline or support for a $15 minimum wage. These are evanescent fevers. As the decades roll by, the single unshakable commitment is opposition to any restriction on the right to inflict violence on pre-born babies. So today there is a limitless right to kill, and distribute fragments of, babies that intrauterine medicine can increasingly treat as patients.
We are wallowing in this moral swamp because the Supreme Court accelerated the desensitization of the nation by using words and categories about abortion the way infants use knives and forks -- with gusto, but sloppily. Because Planned Parenthood's snout is deep in the federal trough, decent taxpayers find themselves complicit in the organization's vileness. What kind of a government disdains the deepest convictions of citizens by forcing them to finance what they see in videos -- Planned Parenthood operatives chattering about bloody human fragments? "Taxes," said Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr., "are what we pay for civilized society." Today they finance barbarism.
Despite Will's declaration that taxes "finance barbarism," Planned Parenthood does not use any federal money for abortion procedures -- it's been unlawful for nearly 40 years.
His smears are further undermined by the Post's own editorial board, which called out conservative efforts to attack Planned Parenthood based on the deceptively edited videos:
That truths were distorted to paint an inaccurate and unfair picture of a health organization that provides valuable services to women -- as well as to demonize research that leads to important medical advances -- doesn't matter to antiabortion activists. Or, sadly, to the politicians who pander to them.
Planned Parenthood is under virulent attack for the role a small portion of its affiliates play in helping women who want to donate fetal tissue for medical research. The antiabortion group Center for Medical Progress has orchestrated a propaganda campaign accusing the nation's largest provider of abortions of profiting from the illegal sale of fetal tissue, a charge refuted by Planned Parenthood.
None of the videos released shows anything illegal and, in fact, the full footage of Planned Parenthood executives meeting with people presumed to be buyers for a human biologics company include repeated assertions that clinics are not selling tissue but only seeking permitted reimbursement costs for expenses. Indeed, the Colorado clinic featured in the videos refused to enter into a contract with the phony company because of its failure to meet its legal and ethical standards.
Conservative media defended Republican presidential candidate Mike Huckabee's recent claim -- that President Obama's negotiated agreement with Iran over its nuclear program will take Israelis "to the door of the oven" -- by praising the Holocaust comparison as "absolutely true" and "an accurate description."
Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump's campaign launch speech viciously denigrated Mexican immigrants and strongly split conservative media figures on his candidacy. While some argue Trump is a "rodeo clown," others think he is "saying things that need to be said." Several conservatives disagree with Trump's rhetoric but claim he's raising important issues.
The Washington Post is allowing George Will to engage in an "out-and-out conflict of interest" by promoting the work of a conservative advocacy group that's connected to him through financial grants.
Will wrote a June 25 Post piece attacking Chief Justice John Roberts and the Supreme Court's recent decision on the Affordable Care Act. For support, Will cited a lawyer for the Institute for Justice (IJ), who claimed that the United States is becoming "a country in which all the branches of government work in tandem to achieve policy outcomes, instead of checking one another to protect individual rights. Besides violating the separation of powers, this approach raises serious issues about whether litigants before the courts are receiving the process that is due to them under the Constitution."
Will and the Post did not disclose that the Institute for Justice is funded by the Lynde and Harry Bradley Foundation, where Will is a member of the board of directors. The foundation notes on its website that it "substantially supports IJ." The Bradley Foundation directly gave IJ over $500,000 from 2011-2013 (the most recent year available), according to its annual reports. It awarded IJ's president, William H. "Chip" Mellor, a 2012 "Bradley Prize" along with a stipend of $250,000. The foundation states that board members are responsible for grant-making decisions.
The lack of disclosure is perplexing given that the Post previously noted Will's financial connections to IJ. A Nexis search for "Institute for Justice" and "Bradley Foundation" in the Post did not return any results except for an August 21, 2009, correction about Will's ties ("he is a board member of the Bradley Foundation, which has contributed funding to the Institute for Justice").
Washington Post writer Erik Wemple has criticized his colleague's "out-and-out conflict of interest" in previously promoting Bradley Foundation recipients, explaining:
Here, Will touted an outlet funded generously by a group he helps to lead. And thanks to the columnist's kind words, WILL [Wisconsin Institute for Law & Liberty] may have an easier time finding funders outside of the Bradley Foundation. All very cozy, synergistic and, as media critics might say, an out-and-out conflict of interest -- an offense of which Will has been accused before.
Will defended himself regarding his lack of disclosure last year, claiming, in part, that "I see no reason -- no service to readers -- to disclose my several degrees of separation from the program: My tenuous connection has no bearing on what I think about what they do. There comes a point when disclosure of this and that becomes clutter, leaving readers to wonder what the disclosed information has to do with anything."
Media ethicists and journalism veterans have criticized Will for the practice, calling it a breach of journalistic ethics. As Media Matters has documented, Will has a long history of ethical misfires despite being long employed by a leading national newspaper.
From the June 22 edition of Fox News' Special Report with Bret Baier:
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From the June 18 edition of Fox News' Special Report with Briet Baier:
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A poll conducted by The Washington Post and the Kaiser Family Foundation found that 20 percent of women who attended college in the past four years were sexually assaulted, contrary to claims in the right-wing media that the problem of campus sexual assault is overblown.
The poll of 1,053 men and women, conducted by phone between January and March, found that 20 percent of women and five percent of men reported being sexually assaulted either by force or while incapacitated. A further 11 percent of women reported an attempted assault.
The poll also underlined the problem of under-reporting in sexual assault cases, with three-quarters of victims saying they told someone else, but only 11 percent saying they told the police or college authorities. 89 percent said no one was held responsible or punished for the incident.
Men and women in the poll were sharply divided on what they perceive to be the rate of campus sexual assault, too: "58 percent of men believe the share of women sexually assaulted at their school is less than 1 in 5. An identical majority of women believe the share assaulted is 1 in 5 or greater."
The Post story highlighted the stories of some of the women who were given follow-up interviews:
A 21-year-old at a public university in the Southeast who participated in the poll said she was raped by a male student who escorted her out of a nightclub after she suddenly became woozy and separated from a group of friends. Someone, she suspects, had slipped a drug into her rum drink.
"In the morning, I woke up and my lip was so swollen," the woman said. "I just remember sobbing and sobbing and sobbing the next day. You learn a lot of lessons."
Like most who said they had been assaulted, the woman did not report the incident to university officials or police. She said she worried about whether she would ruin the man's future and wondered what to make of what had happened: Had there been a misunderstanding? Should she have been more vehement in saying no? She remembers clearly crying during the attack. She knew it was rape. But how would others see it?
Many in the right-wing media have downplayed concerns about college sexual assault. Previous studies with similar findings caused widespread outrage among right-wing media figures when the White House cited them in its campus sexual assault strategy launch, with the Daily Caller describing a Centers for Disease Control study that found one in five women is sexually assaulted in college as "bizarre and wholly false." On an NRA News show, The Washington Examiner's Ashe Schow claimed that the "one in five myth" was driving "hysteria" on campuses. And Rush Limbaugh went so far as to call the issue of college sexual assault "fake" and "made up."
Last year, the Post's own George Will described efforts to combat such assaults as an attempt to "make victimhood a coveted status that confers privilege," calling a 20 percent assault rate "preposterous." Not long after the poll's publication, the Post's fact-checker Glenn Kessler tweeted that he was removing the single "Pinocchio" that he had given President Obama for his citation of the one-in-five statistic.